The New England Patriots are going to have some coaching turnover in the near future. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be the top head coach candidate in 2016, while defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is still a year or two away from reaching the top of the ranks.
While there is some time before their departure, that doesn't mean the Patriots have to sit by idly. Head coach Bill Belichick is already preparing for the future.
In the fourth preseason game, Belichick rested his starters on offense and defense, as well as on his coaching staff. While the players that rested were focused on preparing for the Steelers, McDaniels and Patricia stalked the sidelines in an observational capacity.
Instead of McDaniels deciding the plays, tight ends coach Brian Daboll called the shots, showing the team's hierarchy. Running back coach Ivan Fears, who predates Belichick's time in New England, doesn't seem to want the coordinator position and is content with his running backs room. Wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea is entering his seventh season with the Patriots and is down the coaching depth chart. Offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo is a lifer in the trenches.
Daboll left the Patriots in 2006 after he was passed over by Belichick, in favor of McDaniels, for the offensive coordinator role. Before rejoining the team in 2013, Daboll acted as offensive coordinator for the Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him elevated to the role once McDaniels is hired externally.
On defense, Patricia yielded to linebackers coach Patrick Graham, a top candidate down the road. Patricia is entering his sixth season as defensive coordinator and will need a few more to shed the product-of-Belichick label. Until then, Graham will expand his knowledge base in his seventh season with the team, having served as both the Patriots linebacker and defensive line coach.
Josh Boyer is entering his tenth season as a Patriots coach with a primary focus on the secondary. He'll likely have to expand his coaching background to the defensive front seven if he wants to earn coordinator looks.
Safeties coach Brian Flores is a darkhorse candidate to have a lengthy coaching career as he enters the 12th season in his Patriots tenure. Flores has four years of experience as a scout, three years with special teams, one as an offensive assistant (he split time with special teams in 2010), and is entering his fifth season on defense. That well-rounded knowledge base is sure to make him a Belichick favorite.
The likelihood of Daboll donning the headset in 2016 is far greater than the chance of Patricia departing, but it's still nice to see that Belichick is projecting a few years down the line. Not only is he ensuring that the Patriots coaching staff will remain in tact and seamless, it also implies that Belichick sees himself coaching down the road.